Hays High's Harley Zimmerman, Gavin Meyers claim Class 5A regional titles
An already impressive freshman season got a whole heck of a lot better for Hays High wrestler Harley Zimmerman on Friday.
Zimmerman stole the show in one of the deepest weight classes in the Class 5A Regional 1 tournament at Hays High, going 3-0 to capture the 126-pound title.
He exhausted every ounce of energy in the championship match to pull out a dramatic 6-5 victory over Goddard's Phoenix Rothenberger, who is ranked No. 5 in Class 5A.
"He definitely leaves it all out there," Hays High coach Heath Meder said of Zimmerman. "He threw together an amazing tournament. ... It was a lot of heart. One hundred-ten percent the entire time. He never let off the gas."
Trailing 5-4 in the title match, Zimmerman broke the grasp of Rothenberger and took his back to earn the deciding two points in the closing seconds.
"Just never give up and keep at it," said Zimmerman, who was named Outstanding Wrestler for the regional.
Hays High sent three to the regional finals and had two champions with Zimmerman and Gavin Meyers, who remained undefeated at 220 pounds with two more pins on Friday. Dalton Dale reached the 152-pound final.
The Indians qualified five — Dale, Meyers, Zimmerman, Cyrus Vajnar and Ashton Putz — for next Saturday's sub-state tournament at Goddard High School.
Zimmerman captured a title in the Bob Kuhn Prairie Classic last month, along with Meyers and Dale. He entered the regional with a 13-4 record.
"I was just thinking, 'I'll do my best and hope for the best,' " Zimmerman said.
He started the day with a 9-4 decision over Salina Central's Elix Hernandez, and then earned a spot in the finals with an 8-4 decision over Maize's Clayton Bowers.
Meder said the Hays High coaches knew Zimmerman was talented when he entered the program but said the freshman has been even better than anticipated.
"We knew he was a good kid," Meder said. "We knew he was a go-er. But in the last couple weeks especially, he's just really turned up. He's correcting mistakes and he's wrestling well. He's definitely exceeded expectations."
"(Friday's performance) should help his confidence a bunch," Meder added. "Finishing first here, now he gets a better seed when he gets into the sub-state."
Meyers, ranked No. 2 at 220 pounds in Class 5A, continued his dominant junior season with pins against Brannon Rageth and Mitchael Casement. After a first-round bye, Meyers pinned Rageth in 32 seconds. He remained patient against Casement before ending things midway through the second period.
Casement was just the second opponent on the season to make it out of the first round against Meyers, now 20-0.
"He's been finishing every match in the first, but I know his conditioning's there, he could go all three without a problem," Meder said of Meyers. "It just took a while to get that kid where he needed to be. (Casement) wasn't really giving us anything and he wasn't going to make any mistakes. Just smart wrestling."
Dale pinned Great Bend's Mario Enriquez in the second round of his opening match, then took a hard-earned 8-4 decision win over Maize's Jayden Ford, ranked No. 6. Top-ranked Jace Fisher from Goddard pinned Dale in the third period of the final.
Dale moved to 16-6 in his junior season.
"He's wrestling really smart right now," Meder said. "He's not making mistakes; that's what we've been working on a lot with him this year. The change rom last year is really cleaning those things up that were costing him matches. He's cleaned them up and now he's wrestling well."
Vajnar, a sophomore, saw a solid day end on a sour note after an apparent knee injury forced him to withdraw from his third-place match at 120 pounds with Goddard Eisenhower's Braedyn Blasi. Vajnar (16-7) took a 9-3 decision in his first match against Maize South's Isaiah Lowe. He bounced back from a 12-3 major decision loss to eventual regional champion Daniel Gomez to pin Isaac Martinez and qualify for state by guaranteeing a top-4 finish.
"He's another kid with a big gas tank," Meder said of Vajnar. "He leaves it out there and he went hard. We're hoping that the injury is something little and he can still wrestle next weekend."
Putz went 1-2 on the day at the 195-pound weight class, which had six wrestlers. He assured a top-four finish with a second-period pin of Maize South's Isaac Glover.
Meder said he was pleased with the overall showing from his wrestlers.
"Really happy," Meder said. "Coming away with three of our wrestlers in the finals is great. If you're going by rankings, this was the toughest 5A regional. Of course you always want to punch more kids through to the next round. But even matches we lost and kids that didn't place, really happy with the effort, especially the underclassmen. I'm really impressed with how they wrestled today — matches they were losing, never giving up and attacking till the end."
Hays placed fifth as a team in the regional with 99 points. Perennial power Goddard took the team title with 256 points.
The top four finishers at sub-state next week will advance to the state tournament. The Class 5A tournament is Feb. 26 at Hartman Arena in Park City.